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Woman Has Two Failed IUI's With Donor Sperm: Needs An HSG

Posted Nov 12 2012 10:43am

I am a 35-year-old woman writing from Missouri. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for 15 months. After we'd been trying for a year, we went for testing, and my husband was found to have no sperm. We decided to move forward with donor sperm. I had some blood work done (thyroid, progesterone checked) which was normal/ovulatory. I also had a sonohysterogram and endometrial biopsy to investigate my heavy periods; neither of these tests revealed any problems.

So far, I've had two IUIs (intra uterine inseminations) with donor sperm. Neither has been successful (though I had a 21-day progesterone test after both that confirmed ovulation). My doctor is having me use Clearblue Easy OPKs to determine the timing of the insemination. The clinic does one insemination per cycle. Is this the typical procedure? I'm concerned about getting the timing right.

I haven't had a HSG (hysterosalpingogram) test yet. I asked about scheduling one just after my last failed IUI and the secretary indicated that I wouldn't be able to do an IUI and HSG in the same cycle. I'm not sure why. So I don't know whether to do another IUI this cycle, or have the HSG. Any recommendations? What are the risk factors for blocked tubes? I've never had an STI or HPV, if that is relevant.

I know that even though we've been trying a long time, due to my husband's infertility, we've only really had two chances to get pregnant. Psychologically, though, it feels like this has been going on forever. The fact that I'm 35 just increases my anxiety (especially since we'd love to have two children eventually). How many IUI cycles would you recommend before moving to IVF?

Thank you so much. I have appreciated your blog and your thoughtful answers to others' questions for a long time.

K. from Missouri, USA

Answer: Hello K. from the U.S. (Missouri),

Using only one IUI per cycle is acceptable and used by many infertility specialists and Ob/Gyn's. It is really the doctor's preference. If you've been reading my Blog ( you will see that my preference is two IUI's per cycle (24 hrs and 48hrs). There are two schools of thought regarding this matter and studies do not endorse or disprove either method, so either method is fine. I like to have fresh sperm as close to ovulation as possible and so that is the reason for two since it cannot be known exactly when ovulation occurs. However, using donor sperm, that would be more expensive.

I would not attempt another IUI without having done an HSG. In fact, I would not have recommended an IUI without first having done this test. This is because if your tubes are blocked, for whatever reason, the IUI's will fail. Sometimes women can have mucous blocking their tubes and the HSG can unblock them.

In general, the recommendation is to do no more than four IUI's because most patient will be pregnant by 4 attempts. After four attempts, the pregnancy chances drop drastically, probably because there is something else going on. You have an age issue so you don't want to waste a lot of time. Has your husband had a testicular biopsy to determine if he is making sperm but it is just not getting out? If you decide to pursue IVF, that is something you might want to have done by a Urologist to check and see if you can have a child with his genetics. The sperm, if he is making it, can be aspirated (TESA) and used in IVF to inject into the eggs and fertilize them.

Good Luck,

Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program

Monterey, California, U.S.A

Comment: Dr. Ramirez, Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. My husband and I both appreciate your helpful, thorough response very much. We feel much more prepared for our next visit with the RE. We now know the questions we want to ask and the direction we'd like to go. Again, thank you. K. in MO P.S. Your blog is very helpful too!
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